New California solar farm could be major step in solar energy’s future

Bob Moon Jun 17, 2011
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New California solar farm could be major step in solar energy’s future

Bob Moon Jun 17, 2011
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Steve Chiotakis: The solar power industry will be marking a significant moment-in-the-sun today. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected for the groundbreaking of a major solar-and-steam power plant being built near the California-Arizona border. It’s the biggest of its kind.

And Marketplace’s Bob Moon reports it’s taking solar to a new level.


Bob Moon: Picture a sea of long, slightly-curved mirrors, lined up row-after-row in the wide-open Mojave Desert of Southern California — all of them focusing sunlight onto pipes, and creating steam to power electrical turbines.

Edward Sullivan: When it’s all finished, it’s going to be over 1,000 megawatts of capacity, which means it could power over 300,000 homes. That’s the size of many small- to medium-size American cities.

Solar Trust of America’s Edward Sullivan is billing this as the world’s largest solar facility, with an output that’ll match other power-generating methods.

Sullivan: It’s entering into the realm of coal-fired power plants and nuclear plants, and that’s the first time solar energy has ever entered into that scale.

The facility is biggest of four projects being fast-tracked in the same area, roughly midway between Palm Springs and Phoenix. Sullivan says there’s the rub: it’s limited to areas that get intense sunlight.

Sullivan: We need very, very high energy from the sun, and you really only get that in the American Southwest.

The project is being backed by federal recovery funds. Sullivan says it’s expected to create 1,000 direct construction jobs, and employ 200 permanently.

In Los Angeles, I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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